Anthem, BioWare’s most recent title, was shaping up to be a big deal. I was skeptical that it could live up to the hype it created for itself; that happens to good games all the time. Unfortunately, Anthem didn’t even live up to the standards of which gamers have grown accustomed. Basically, it was an annoying flop, rendered even more frustrating by the raw potential apparent within its DNA. That potential begs the question, “Can Anthem be saved?”
Salvation is certainly not without precedent in these cases. Immediately memorable are the games No Man’s Sky and Sea of Thieves. These two, like Anthem, are monstrous games with even larger ambitions. A closer parallel can be found in the first Destiny, which established a framework and fanbase that Anthem seemed keen on harnessing. Instead of improving on the problems of Destiny, though, BioWare created a project that feels derivative and inferior. Anthem won’t be stealing any hardcore Destiny fans unless BioWare also follows in Bungie’s footsteps by releasing some major content and patches that change the game on a foundational level.
In some ways, this feels like a race against time as a result of the game’s publisher, Electronic Arts. The company can come off as fickle when it comes to its properties, having recently canceled multiple Star Wars games in order to pursue supposedly brighter pastures in the form of different Star Wars games. I’m only guessing here but, if EA wants a chance to establish this IP as something worth our time, then it must do so immediately.
As you might expect, plans to patch and improve the game are already in the works. A 90-day roadmap was released in early 2019 to give gamers an idea of what they can expect. This roadmap, entitled Act I, is set to do many things, a lot of which appear geared towards the game’s endgame. New items and new missions are likely going to be the biggest changes in Act I. The timeframes for Act II and Act III aren’t clear yet, but they do imply that BioWare does have some time to work things out. It’s never clear how long these things can take, either. No Man’s Sky received significant updates over the course of two years, while Sea of Thieves promptly added content to flesh out its skeletal world.
For all of this to work out for BioWare, the company needs to promptly address some of Anthem’s most glaring issues. For starters, the missions need greater variety. It would be ideal if this could happen earlier than the endgame, but it’s hard to imagine the developer changing the primary campaign at this point. Endgame changes can help save the game, though, as the first Destiny proved with its expansions.
It would also be nice if BioWare could address the loading screens because constantly loading the game, regardless of what system you are on, takes a while and interrupts any momentum Anthem manages to build. I don’t have the technical prowess to know quite how BioWare could address this, but it does seem like the team could do something about consolidating all the menus that need to be loaded and navigated. Better items, with logical statistics, should also be added, and the developer should possess a greater sense of variety than is currently present, because that can, at the very least, help break up some monotony. The endgame is also fueled by a player’s desire for cooler and better items, so it makes sense that the roadmap includes these.
I don’t want to see Anthem fail. I want the review I wrote, which paints the game as mediocre at best, to be a poor reflection of the game as soon as possible. In terms of premise and shared world, Anthem can represent something novel in games and potentially lead to other games of a similar flavor. I like to think of having these sorts of games at my disposal, because the idea of getting together for a raid with friends, each of whom might have carved out a unique style of play, in the world of a mythologically propelled narrative and halfway decent gunplay appeals to me. Variations on Destiny and Anthem could also appeal to me. In the eyes of publishers, Anthem can serve as a proof of concept, so now there’s a burden on BioWare to refine the execution. I hope the team figures things out.